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Living room with Malawi rug

Minimally Eclectic with Baldwin & Bagnall

Interior designers Heath Baldwin and Hayden Bagnall approach each site as bespoke, weaving unexpected flourishes into their effortlessly curated aesthetic. Below, we speak to the duo behind Baldwin & Bagnall about their winding career paths and their shared hopes for the future of Australian design.

Photography by Tom Ferguson

What was the first piece of design that really mattered to you?

It was likely an expensive piece of designer clothing that I coveted for way too long. Although, I remember purchasing my first set of Fler Narvik armchairs at auction and restoring them – this certainly started my intrigue and passion for furniture and design. Oh, and perhaps my obsession with Wallpaper* magazines throughout my 20’s.

I suppose a special piece of design was an Aalto Savoy vase I purchased in Europe and carefully returned home with many years ago. I’m a huge fan of Alvar & Aino and their approach to design so it was and still is a sentimental object.

Dining room designed by Baldwin & Bagnall

Tell us a bit about your career journey – who or what has inspired you along the way?

Starting my career on stage as a performer, I was surrounded by beauty, form and design for much of my life. This freedom and creativity, which was developed at a young age, was eventually channeled into a different direction, slowly finding my way through various outlets into interior design.

Prior to starting the studio with Heath, I had the opportunity to intern with Ghislaine Viñas in New York. I had always loved her bold and fun work so it was wonderful to experience it firsthand. I think the biggest takeaway was her creative approach and positive attitude towards her clients and projects.

Describe the Baldwin & Bagnall aesthetic. Is there a common thread between all the spaces you design?

Our projects overall, we’d consider as minimally eclectic. Not bare enough to be minimal, and not so outrageous to be eclectic – we like floating somewhere in between. The use of color and texture, interesting fabrics, natural stones and timbers, mixed with a diverse blend of vintage, custom and classic furniture, is a common thread you might notice throughout our work

Bedroom designed by Baldwin & Bagnall

Are there any personal values that guide your practice?

Personally, I think design and my ideas surrounding it are constantly evolving. I find myself becoming more restrained and conscious of how we can best utilize an environment. In a world of excess, I am interested in pushing clients to consider what they actually need to live both comfortably and responsibly.

In each project, I like to share part of my own lifelong appreciation and love of design. It incorporates sentiment, old and new classics and making sure the outcome is unique and exciting. But even more importantly, I strongly believe that home should be a reflection of those who live there.

At Armadillo, we are advocates of the slow design movement. What considerations do you think should be front of mind to ensure that a home will endure and evolve over time?

Our studio continually reimagines the contemporary Australian home. We maintain a relaxed, fun and unique approach; committed to retaining elements of the past and treated with a contemporary lens. We seek to focus on longevity and sustainability by selecting quality materials, well-made furniture and crafted fixtures and fittings. As a design practice, we put a lot of effort into designing spaces that withstand the test of time and creating long-term homes for our clients.

Living room designed by Baldwin & Bagnall

Are there any natural materials that you find yourself continually drawn to?

Natural marbles and stones, oaks and other timbers, and wools in our floor coverings, upholstery and window treatments. Although, we’re always on the lookout for new materials.

We’re honored to have some of our rugs featured in your projects. How would you advise our customers in choosing rugs for their homes?

There are several factors when nominating a rug for a project – overall design intent, household needs, etc. But one really important item to note is size and proportions. Make sure the size and fit works for the room and isn’t too small.

"Our projects are minimally eclectic - not bare enough to be minimal, and not so outrageous to be eclectic."

What is an overlooked element of décor that you think brings ease to modern living?

Exploration and taking a little risk! We like to encourage clients to push the boundaries and to embrace the unexpected. We find that it leads us to discover the client’s unique style and point of view and, ultimately, they’re happier in the space they call home.

Living room designed by Baldwin & Bagnall
Living room designed by Baldwin & Bagnall
Kitchen designed by Baldwin & Bagnall

We’re honored to have our rugs featured in many of your projects. What considerations are front of mind when you are choosing a rug for a space? For example color, size, texture, material and placement.

Yes, all of the above! My starting point is color first – what works with the aesthetic vision for the space? Then texture, based on location – does the client want something soft in the bedroom and heartier in the kitchen? I think the most important factor on a rug’s impact in a space is size. I don’t start my sourcing process with size, because I can usually find the right size after narrowing down color & texture. However, if a rug is too small it can throw off an entire room, so size is paramount before choosing final options. Last but not least, I consider quality and sustainability. Understanding how things are made and who they’re made by has become increasingly important. The integrity that Armadillo shows in its business practices through the support it gives to its artisans, shows in the product and is just another reason Aker Interiors is a customer for life!

Bedroom designed by Baldwin & Bagnall

Whether it is a handmade piece or incorporating a vintage find, you really advocate for the beauty of imperfection. What is it about objects with a patina that you’re drawn to?

I don’t know if I really know why, but I just find perfect things to be so boring! I think it’s something deeply rooted in who I am. I’ve always bucked the “shoulds” in life and perfect homes with polished fixtures and perfectly painted walls feels like another “should” to me. I’m drawn to things with more depth than that, but that also speaks to the bones of a space. If you have a perfect brand-new space, every imperfection is highly noticeable but if you’re working with a space with history, every imperfection is just another part of the story. And I also think I’m highly aware, not just because of this industry but in general, that humans are imperfect so I embrace imperfections instead of fighting against them.

Living room designed by Baldwin & Bagnall
Bathroom designed by Baldwin & Bagnall

Any tips on mixing and matching furniture and soft furnishings to create an interior that will defy trends?

This is something I think about a lot, because one of my greatest design fears is looking back in 5 or 10 years and thinking my designs look dated because they were too “of that time”. I think the materiality of a space is key to keeping it “timeless”, though I’m not a huge fan of that word, so I’ll say continuously inspiring. Nature will never go out of style, so I think using natural materials like stone, wood, concrete or clay keep a space from being too trendy.

Living room designed by Baldwin & Bagnall

What’s keeping you creatively stimulated right now?

To be completely transparent, at this stage in my business, it’s really hard. I, along with my sister Hannah who handles all of the operations, work like dogs right now, so it’s a constant struggle to take time to allow myself the space and time to be creatively stimulated. I’ve become continuously more aware in the last year how important it is for me to create space for the creativity to happen, otherwise I’m designing on empty. Travel has always been my greatest creative stimulant to absorb and recharge, but obviously that has been constrained in the last year and a half. I love magazines and books, so sitting down with a glass of wine and looking through a design book or travel magazine is one of my creatively stimulating moments. Prior to starting Aker Interiors, I would leave my phone at home for days and forget to respond to texts because technology makes me feel constrained so honestly, on Sundays when I tend to disconnect, I feel like my brain has the space to start creating again!

Finally, we can’t help but ask – what is your favourite Armadillo rug to have underfoot?

It’s a tie between the Agra and Malawi! I’m so in love with both and they work in any space! And we’ve already utilized the custom colour program because the colours are SO good. This sounds like an ad but it’s not because we’re that obsessed.

Bedroom and en suite designed by Baldwin & Bagnall

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